In our scripture this past week was a verse that opens up some discussion on “faith vs. works”. Ephesians 2:8-9 remind us that it is by faith we’ve been saved, not by works, so that no one may boast. But the words we read in Revelation 22:12 seem unfamiliar in a land that has lost the value of works:
“See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone’s work.” Rev. 22:12
Now, just in “Googling” the verse, I found some popular explanations out there already. One take, was that this verse is related to John 6:29, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him who he has sent.” That our “work” is simply to believe. Which meshes well with the “saved by faith” message we are preaching. But it seems to extract that verse alone is to cheapen the dialogue Jesus was having with His followers. They’re wanting to do great things for God, and ask how they can go about doing them. Jesus points out that it’s God actually doing the miraculous things, that all they need to do is believe, and the great things will be accomplished as they live. But this simple explanation and dismissal also seems to be missing something.
When we look at the Greek, the literal translation of Rev. 22:12 becomes, “behold, I am coming quickly, and my reward is with me to give to each one as the work of him is.”
The word used for “as” here is “hos” (sounds like “host” without the “t”). As you can see in the word list on that link, nowhere in the KJV, and only 2 places in the NAS is this word translated as “according”. So what does that mean about the verse we’re looking at? That perhaps it’s less about being “results/payment for work that was done”, and more simply about being very much connected.
This past Sunday, Pastor Gerry reminded us of something important. This is “my reward” (Jesus speaking). It is not our reward that Jesus is giving us for something we’ve done. When my oldest daughter Addie comes to me, and asks me for a drink for her sister who is thirsty, it is MY reward to be able to give her what she’s asked me for.
We talk about “Kingdom work” all the time. That these things we’re doing are somehow connected to what God began in Jesus Christ, and promises to bring to completion. So it makes sense that in talking about Jesus bringing about New Heaven/New Earth, and bringing in a New Jerusalem; Jesus would consider it HIS reward to be able to give to us the fulfillment of everything we’ve been working toward.
This verse is a reminder that these things we’re doing are somehow connected to the fulfillment of God making all things new. That God isn’t going to scrap all the work we’ve done, the things that have been made new, the love we’ve developed, the fellowship and beauty and artistic life filled things that exist – they will all somehow be involved in what Jesus considers His reward to bring about.
May we continue our Kingdom work with that knowledge…